gillenia trifoliata (Bowman’s root)


This plant was shared with me by a friend in Calgary.  I love it so much it was one of the plants I brought with me when I moved.  The delicate, airiness of the flowers is just. so. pretty. and as if that’s not enough, the red stems and seedheads will add interest for the rest of the year.  This is definitely on my favourites list!  And it even goes perfectly with the brick background, n’est-ce pas?

the Orchard garden planted


After a busy gardening week-end, I’m too tired to write much but here’s a quick look at the orchard garden (north-west corner, above).  What’s here?  Left to right-ish: a purple bugbane, coral bells ‘Red Sea’, variegated Solomon’s seal, 3 deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’; Evans cherry tree, 5 sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, 3 spirea ‘Dakota Goldcharm’, haskap ‘Aurora Borealis’, green onions, and rhubarb.


South-west corner, above: Veronica ‘Aztec Gold’, 3 sedum ‘Matrona’, coral bells, 3 deschampsia Cespitosa ‘Goldtau’, dwarf cedar ‘Hetz Midget’, Evans cherry tree, 2 bergenia, 2 Boman’s root, Lady’s Mantle.

To see how this garden has developed, click here and scroll down.

the orchard garden in progress


Digging up grass is hard work so I am planting as I go.  It really doesn’t make sense to do it this way except that I like to see things in place as soon as possible so I can decide what else I want to plant here. And I’m impatient.  I always seem to buy stuff before I have the space ready to plant it in.  I’m not saying you should do what I do.  I don’t recommend it at all.

But this is my favourite part of gardening – the creating!  Here’s the view from a little further back (below).  My goal is to get the areas around the two cherry trees fully planted by the end of May.


If you’d like to see progress on this garden over time, click here and scroll down.

playing with plants


I’ve been planning this new garden all winter and can’t wait to get started!  I planned the major stuff back in December which included a circular design for the lawn and an Evans cherry tree to anchor this corner.  But otherwise, it is fun to play.  I picked up these three spiraea shrubs (‘Dakota Goldcharm’) for another spot in the garden, but suddenly realized they would give me more bang for my buck here, because their shot of colour will be seen from the kitchen window.  The dwarf cedar (‘Hetz Midget’) will add some winter colour.  The rest of the area will get filled in with perennials… I’m not sure what yet besides my Mom’s bee balm.  But first…. digging!

apple tree pruning: before and after

I’m thrilled to have 2 apple trees in my new-to-me backyard.  However, the big one was overgrown and the little one has a big pruning wound on it and needs some TLC.  Although I know the basics of tree pruning, I thought it would be worthwhile to call in some professionals for this first year.  Here’s the before and after (left and right), for the record, so that I can do it myself in some years (note to self to call in the professionals every 2 to 3 years).  You’ll notice the big one is quite opened up compared to before, and they didn’t take much off the little one because it needs its leaves to try to recover:


OK it’s a little hard to see with my neighbour’s trees in the background! How about this:


Better?  You can see more sky between branches in the ‘after’ pictures on the right, right?

Want to know more?  Here’s a recent video on tree pruning.

A few tree pruning tips I’ve gleaned from it and other sources:

  • it’s time to prune apple trees! (roses in a couple more weeks)
  • prune spring-flowering trees and shrubs like lilacs and cherries after they flower
  • get rid of branches that grow straight up and those that cross over each other -> aim for an open, vase-shaped tree that has space between branches
  • prune from the bottom up with hand pruners or loppers, just outside the collar where the branch connects to the tree
  • don’t use paint or pruning sealers at this time of year! Balsam is good.
  • clean tools with a wire brush and rubbing alcohol

Here’s hoping for lots of apples in the fall!


the Orchard Garden 2016


The boring lawn in the middle of my backyard is going to radically change next year.  The gnarly old lilacs, planted way too close to the garage, have already been chopped down, and 2 Evans Cherry trees will take their place.  There are already 2 apple trees on the other side of the backyard (which can’t be seen in the above photo) – hence the name “Orchard Garden” for this area of the yard.

I really like my lawn to have a defined, intentional shape, rather than simply extend to the fence and pathways as if the designer just gave up and couldn’t think of anything else to do.  In this yard we will cut the lawn and ornamental gardens into the shapes of overlapping circles.  I chose to use this design theme in order to satisfy our need for trampoline space (it is “tucked away” as much as a 12 foot trampoline can be!) as well as to work with the existing apple trees, cedar tree and rose bush on the east side of the pie-shaped yard:


The north-south axis of the lawn will align with the axis of the vegetable garden at the back of the yard (shed and lilac stumps, below, to be removed in spring).  It was beautiful out today so I did what any garden-obsessed person would do – go outside and shovel the design into the backyard snow in order to better visualize my future creation, of course!


That’s a totally normal thing to do on a beautiful December day…. right?

Here’s the long axis of my old backyard in Calgary: